Washington DC (BBN) – World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick has outlined steps to address the immediate risks of the global food crisis while also proposing reforms for the international aid system so it can have a greater impact on the lives of poor people.

Speaking at a conference on improving the quality and impact of development assistance, Zoellick said the record on improving the international aid system was mixed at best and donors, countries and civil society organizations needed to redouble their efforts to make progress, a World Bank press statement said on Thursday.

“Whether aid works can help determine whether the future is one of hope or privation,” Zoellick told the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana. “The consequences of getting aid right – or getting it wrong – are very real.”

Zoellick said that the global food crisis was undermining the drive to overcome poverty and meant it was more urgent than ever to take practical steps to implement the goals of the conference expressed in the Accra Agenda for Action.

A first step was to lift export bans and restrictions for humanitarian food aid. “We know these policies exacerbate the current crisis, and harm the most vulnerable. They must go,” Zoellick said. But he acknowledged it was often difficult for countries to remove these bans and promised help from the World Bank Group.

Possible solutions included countries sharing the management of physical reserves; creating regional information systems for early detection of supply shocks; and networks of virtual grain reserves.

The World Bank chief also called for increasing the predictability, flexibility and amount of food aid. “Restrictions, earmarks and onerous conditions on food aid mean higher costs and these should be removed to ensure that food gets quickly to where it is most needed,” Zoellick said.

BBN/SI/SI/AD-06September08-12:16 AM